As I am reading The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and blogging about it at The McAllister Code, I feel inclined to measure my society by how well we are implementing them. I have read the book before, but obviously never fully integrated it into my life. However, now the habits seem to be forming more organically and I am seeing the way that these same habits are going to play an integral role in the coming paradigm of modern society. Hopefully, as they become more apparent to me, they will also become more apparent to my world.
In writing about the first habit of Being Proactive, Stephen Covey points out the difference between being proactive and being reactive. Proactive refers to how you act upon your principles and choose your reaction to whatever stimulus comes your way. Reactive is when your circumstances dictate your behavior for you.
When I look back over the last decade, of course the biggest decision I can think of was the decision to go to war with two different countries as a response to the stimulus of the attacks on 9/11. Was this response proactive or reactive?
Of course, the initial answer is that it was reactive in that it was done as a reaction to an event. However, any action taken after an event can be seen as a reaction to it. Whether we had fought, shrugged out shoulders, or curled up in a ball and died, these would all be reactions. But how did our principles play into our reaction? Were our actions proactive bases upon the values we hold most dear?
The values of America, if I’m not mistaken, are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. There are all sorts of sub-values in there, if you will, but I think those three sum them up pretty well. At least, that’s what Thomas Jefferson thought. No matter how I look at the matter of our reaction to 9/11, I don’t see our military actions of the last ten years as largely based upon these American principles. One might argue that you can’t simply strive for life, liberty, and happiness when you are under threat. However, wouldn’t doing otherwise just be reactive? If we don’t act out the values of life, liberty, and happiness, aren’t our behaviors just being mandated by terrorism?
I’ll be the first to admit that I was no admirer of our previous president. Yet like many Americans, I held great hope in the change that was promised with the present president. Nevertheless, looking at his decision to ramp up activity in Afghanistan, I again have to wonder if our behavior is proactive or reactive.
I wonder what values will guide us through the next decade.